Official ball provokes a round of criticism

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Mexicans even resort to using American pigskin in training

Player complaints about the Jabulani World Cup ball show no signs of abating, and Mexico is even using American footballs to sharpen their goalkeepers' reactions to unpredictable bounces.

At Monday's practice at Waterstone College, Mexico goalkeeping coach Alberto Aguilar kicked bouncing pigskins to his three charges - starter Oscar Perez and substitutes Guillermo Ochoa and Luis Michel.

Italy's Mauro German Camoranesi tackles Paraguay's Claudio Morel (front) during their World Cup Group F match in Cape Town, South Africa on Monday. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

JOHANNESBURG -

Player complaints about the Jabulani World Cup ball show no signs of abating, and Mexico is even using American footballs to sharpen their goalkeepers' reactions to unpredictable bounces.

At Monday's practice at Waterstone College, Mexico goalkeeping coach Alberto Aguilar kicked bouncing pigskins to his three charges - starter Oscar Perez and substitutes Guillermo Ochoa and Luis Michel.

The drill comes after a couple of goalkeeper blunders on seemingly easy shots during the first weekend of the World Cup in South Africa. England's Robert Green allowed a cheap equalizer against the United States for a 1-1 draw, and Algeria's Fawzi Chaouchi misjudged a long-distance shot and allowed it to bounce into the net off his arm for a late winner in Sunday's 1-0 loss against Slovenia.

Gripes about the Jabulani ball are not new and none of the 32 teams at the World Cup has made an official complaint to FIFA.

"The ball has been produced by Adidas, which is a long-standing partner of FIFA and very experienced in this field," said Nicolas Maingot, head of FIFA's media department. "It has been tested and it has been proven."

Players, however, are still presenting arguments to the contrary.

Gianluigi Buffon, closing in on Dino Zoff's Italian record of 112 international appearances as a goalkeeper, said Monday it was possible to "hear some deep breaths from the tribune" whenever the Jabulani took flight.

"This ball goes and goes and goes. I hope the goalkeepers go, go, go, too," Buffon said, while American keeper Marcus Hahnemann said the Jabulani was too light and allowed too much spin.

Other top goalkeepers, including Spain's Iker Casillas and Brazil's Julio Cesar, have also raised concerns about the ball, as have Brazil striker Luis Fabiano and Denmark's Daniel Agger, who had a Jabulani bounce off his back and into the wrong net after a header by teammate Simon Poulsen, gifting their Dutch rivals the first goal of their 2-0 victory on Monday.

Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini has called the ball a "disaster" and Agger's teammate Jesper Gronkjaer described the Jabulani as a "lousy football."

Of course, soccer players have a habit of complaining about every new development when it comes to tournament balls.

The Teimgeist ball used at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was called the "flying ball" and the "helium ball" because of its perceived extended flight time, while the Fevernova ball from the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea was deemed too light and too bouncy.

Adidas has been manufacturing the official World Cup balls since 1970 - first from leather and later from synthetic materials - and the current tournament is its 11th world championship in a row.

As expected, the German firm has defended the Jabulani, with company spokesman Thomas van Schaik saying last month that "all the response we have had has been positive" and that the World Cup teams had been given the ball ahead of time so they could get used to it.

Organizations: Waterstone College, FIFA, Adidas

Geographic location: Mexico, JOHANNESBURG, South Africa England United States Algeria Brazil Slovenia Spain Denmark Italy Germany Japan South Korea

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Recent comments

  • Shannon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    The American goaltender stopped seven shots, not almost 20. There were 18 shots by England but only eight were on target (Howard stopped seven). The Americans had 13 shots but only four on goal, of which Green stopped three. So, in fact the above numbers might be indicative of a problem with the ball as outfield players appear to be having trouble aiming it at the goal. Of course, we don't know that, only the players would know that.

  • Mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    The American goaltender who made almost 20 saves had no problem with the ball.

  • Shannon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    The American goaltender stopped seven shots, not almost 20. There were 18 shots by England but only eight were on target (Howard stopped seven). The Americans had 13 shots but only four on goal, of which Green stopped three. So, in fact the above numbers might be indicative of a problem with the ball as outfield players appear to be having trouble aiming it at the goal. Of course, we don't know that, only the players would know that.

  • Mike
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    The American goaltender who made almost 20 saves had no problem with the ball.